BRITAIN has mounted a culinary invasion of India by taking British curries back to Kolkata this week.
Four top chefs from Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK have gone to the city that used to be known as Calcutta to mount a Taste of Britain Curry Festival.
Sounds daft? Not really.
The most popular Indian takeaways, such as chicken tikka masala and balti chicken, are among dishes that were devised in Britain for the British and have never been served in the Indian sub continent. Until now.
Festival director Syed Belal Ahmed said: “The great British curry is going back to its roots – Kolkata. Once the proud seat of the British Raj in India, Kolkata is the place where the curry trail really started.”
And it is proving highly popular with locals packing the place and paying £19 a head to choose from up to 50 British curries.
In fact, the concept of curry is entirely different in Britain. Here it can mean a whole range of food from the Indian sub-continent, but there it means simply a sauce or gravy. The versions of curry that we know were developed by an amalgam of Eastern and Western cooking during the days of empire. Indian cooks often used strong sauces to disguise the fact that the meat being used was of poor quality.
The British love affair with curry goes back more than 250 years when the first recipe appeared here in a cook book. The first Indian curry house in England opened in London in 1809 and today there are 12,000 curry restaurants in Britain.
The first curry house in Huddersfield, I believe, was in Chapel Hill, but the one that most people will remember is The Punjab Curry Centre – otherwise known as Chiefy’s – underneath the arches on Bradford Road.
This was basic but brilliantly run by a gentleman who had very little English but the total respect of his customers – delicious curry, a dish of chick peas permanently cooking on the counter and naan breads like pillowcases.
Ah yes, I remember it well.